Cheminformatics OLCC: Intercollegiate curriculum development and delivery

Project No.
PI Name
Robert Belford
University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Abstract 1

Cheminformatics OLCC: Intercollegiate curriculum development and delivery

Presentation Type
Bob Belford, Univeristy of Arkansas at Little Rock Jon Holmes, UW-Madison Stuart Chalk, UNF Jennifer Muzyka, Centre College Sunghwan Kim, NIH NCBI PubChem Leah McEwen, Cornell Ye Li, UM-Ann Arbor Kristin Briney, UW-Milwaukee Justin Shorb, Hope College Jordi Cuadros, Universitat Ramon Llull Andrew Lang, Oral Roberts John Penn, WVU David Wild, IU-Bloomington


Cheminformatics is changing the fundamental cognitive artifacts used to represent, manipulate and communicate chemical information. These represent challenges and opportunities for both chemists and chemical educators. Few schools can offer cutting edge courses in cheminformatics, and few students can interact with experts from institutions like the NIH NCBI PubChem, RSC ChemSpider and IUPAC InChI Trust.

MOOCs represent a one-to-many online educational paradigm where one institution reaches many students. There is need for MOOC 2.0 many-to-many hybrid multi-institutional courses, where residential faculty team teach with online guest lecturers, distributed over both formal and informal learning institutions. This allows schools to offer courses in subjects they normally could not. The OLCC (OnLine College Course) CMS (Course Management System) was developed to do this.


1: Identify cheminformatics competencies that are missing in the undergraduate curriculum, bring in experts and offer a course targeting these needs.

2: Create a CMS utilizing informatics technologies to enable lecturers distributed throughout the world, inside and outside of academia, to interact with students of participating schools. The pilot offering was in the Fall of 2015 at 4 universities, where students interacted with 31 faculty from 4 continents.


Facilitators operated with autonomy using the methods they felt best for their classroom. None-the-less, by placing the lectures online all classrooms were essentially flipped. One schoolメs classroom activities involved group-work POGIL-like activities.

The extensible CMS allowed the lecture material to grow in response to student needs, creating an evolving educational ontology based on an extensible nodal network of embeddable TLOs (Teaching and Learning Objects) that could be forked and scaffolded, along subject-predicate-object relationships based on the studentメs needs. For example, we discovered a new Excel function enabling spreadsheets to extract molar masses from online resources. Students then created モhow-toヤ YouTubes for Libre Office and Google Sheets, which were embedded into the module as TLOs, extending the curriculum material in direct response to student needs.


The CMS stood up to the task for the Fall of 2014, both students and faculty learned new cheminformatics resources and techniques. The ACS awarded a $12,500 Innovative Projects Grant to support student travel to a special symposium of the 251st National ACS Meeting, where students, facilitators and lecturers can share experiences, and we can recruit new schools for 2017. We are also trying to organize a workshop to be held prior to the 2016 BCCE to recruit schools for 2017.

Broader Impacts

Exposing today�s chemistry students to new and evolving cheminformatics technologies will better equip them to operate in this highly connected world we are evolving into, and enable them to develop new and innovative methods to solve tomorrow's problems. The extensible many-to-many MOOC 2.0 type CMS is by no means limited to chemistry. For example, Arkansas History Museum staff are interested in using this technology to offer a course in elementary schools across the state, where each week students and teachers interact with the curators of a different museum, allowing the museums of Arkansas to teach the history of Arkansas in classrooms across the entire state.

Unexpected Challenges

We sought to bring together educators, librarians and cheminformaticans to develop a syllabus that approached cheminformatics skills that are missing in the undergraduate curriculum. This was very difficult, as the later two groups had their own visions, and the former wanted to see a syllabus, not create one. We realized we could not satisfy both librarians and cheminformaticans, and needed to run a pilot version of the course based on a subset of the potential offerings, and then use that to attract educators for a second offering of the course in the Spring of 2017.


Belford, R.E., Wild, D.W., McEwen, L.R & Williams, A.J, Cheminformatics OLCC: A CCCE Project in Intercollegiate Teaching and Learning, Fall 2013 ACS DivCHED CCCE Newsletter, Discussed Online Nov. 4-6, 2013, .

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